Leaving Work Behind

How to Make $3,000 Per Month as a Mediocre Writer

Written by Guest Author on December 18, 2014. 32 Comments

Tom: The following is a guest post from Minh Nguyen. I was initially not keen on the title of the post, as I think Minh is a good writer, but that wasn’t always the case. The following is an inspiring story about how Minh transformed himself from a mediocre writer into a successful freelancer. Fast-forward to present day and he’s going from strength to strength!

TypewriterBefore I stumbled upon Tom’s blogging course and his blogging tips, I was a pretty mediocre online writer. Actually, I was terrible.

My blog posts looked like a high school essay – no images, no informative links and no stylistic formatting to make the content look visually pleasing. The paragraphs I wrote were monsters to read.

Even though I didn’t know how to write for the web just yet, I still made a pretty decent living as an online freelance writer. I made my first dollar online submitting an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) article – a type of article that puts SEO ahead of readability. A few months after that, I was making $3,000 per month.

This post is for those who:

In this post, I am going to tell you, step-by-step, exactly how I did it. If you follow what I describe here, I am confident that you can replicate my results, regardless of your writing ability.

What the Work Consists Of

When I first got started as an online freelance writer, I had no idea that top-tier bloggers were making $200+ per post. I only knew of gigs that fetched $10-$30 per article.

Fortunately, the amount of time and effort that goes into this type of writing is much lower. The majority of my gigs consisted of these three types of online writing: SEO articles, article rewriting, and cookie-cutter blog posts.

SEO Writing

SEO writing mostly consists of articles that are written for the search engines. This comes at the expense of readability. Clients who are looking to hire you for this type of writing generally don’t care how well the article is written as long as certain factors are accounted for, such as keyword density.

You can find out about how to write SEO articles here and here.

Rewriting Articles

There are two main instances when people would want to have their articles rewritten by someone else:

This type of job is very easy. If you do a good job of cleaning up the articles and making them readable, your client will be happy.

Cookie-Cutter Blog Posts

Clients who are looking for cookie-cutter blog posts aren’t generally looking for exceptional or spectacular writing. They just want something that is ‘good enough’ and don’t want to have to shell out hundreds for a standard post.

An example of this is a blog post I did for a motel company in Utah. The post outlined upcoming events in the area and listed the motel’s amenities. Nothing too fancy.

As you can see, there’s not much to it when it comes to the skill involved in these types of writing. If you passed high school English, you are automatically qualified.

How to Land These Types of Jobs

SEO companies are going to be your best bet when it comes to landing these jobs. Just do a Google search and you will find hundreds upon hundreds of companies to pitch.

They are always in need of reliable writers. Notice the emphasis on reliable. If you can prove that you are fast and reliable, they will have you write hundreds of articles for them in one batch.

That is the jackpot and the key to making this work. You need to be able to secure a mass amount of articles and blog posts from a reasonably small amount of clients in order to make enough money without being overwhelmed.

You can either cold call the SEO company and ask to be directed to the proper person, network with proper people in-person, or send cold e-mails. I chose the cold e-mail route. In retrospect, cold calling would have been the quickest way and would have yielded the best results.

For inspiration, take a look at my pitch:

Dear (SEO Company),

As an experienced SEO content writer and native English speaker, I understand how difficult it is to find writers who actually know English and can submit articles without typos or grammatical errors.  When you contract for writers, you need content that your clients will be happy with – and you need it fast!  I am reliable, responsive, and exceed deadlines.

If you are in need of SEO content articles that will keep the audience reading and make the search engines happy at the same time, contact me today.  Rates and samples are available upon request.

I appreciate your time, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Minh Nguyen

In other words, if I was able to be successful with that pitch, you can definitely succeed with a better pitch.

Here are two resources on how to word your pitch.

Of course, tailor your pitch to reflect the job you are trying to land.

Always Make Sure the Pay is Good Enough

After you get a few responses, you need to make sure that you are going to be paid a reasonable amount of money for your work. Most SEO companies are going to look for dirt cheap rates, so be patient. There are many companies out there willing to pay the rate you are looking for if you can prove your worth.

I only accepted the job if the client agreed to at least $20 per 500 words each article (or four cents per word).

(Optional) Outsource the Work to oDesk, eLance, or Fiverr

After those batches of hundreds of articles start queuing up, you’re going to want to outsource the work to one of these three sites. Fiverr is for freelancers who can post ‘gigs’ of what they are willing to do for $5. For oDesk and eLance, companies and individuals can post projects of what they need done and how much they are willing to pay for it.

This is the time you will build your team of writers. It will take some time, but you will need to exercise patience and caution when looking for writers to add to your team. Some will flake out on you and some will be very slow and unreliable. It is part of the process.

The outsourced articles will probably not be 100% ready to submit to your clients. It usually takes me about 10-15 minutes to proofread and correct minor grammar mistakes here and there.

You will want to let your clients (the SEO companies) know that your team of writers have the capacity to complete hundreds of articles. As you build trust with your clients, they will give you more and more regular batches of work to complete.

The Numbers

Because I was writing for SEO companies on an as-needed basis, each month differed in terms of what types of articles I was writing and editing. I started online freelance writing earlier this year in February, and May was the first month I managed to break $3,000 per month:

Number of ArticlesNarrativeIncome
217SEO articles~$4,300
40Miscellaneous income~$800
Outsourcing costs~$3,100
Net Income~$3,100

In May, I had two large batches of articles that I was working on. I also had some miscellaneous pieces of work.  I worked about 4-5 hours each day proofreading, editing, and writing articles. After that, I spent 2-3 hours doing administrative work.

The Aftermath

Eventually, I burned out sometime in August. I could not continue proofreading and writing hundreds of articles every single month. It was a happy coincidence that I happened upon Paid to Blog. Now I’m working on building my blogging skills and portfolio in order to move away from the low end of online freelance writing.

For this reason, I’m not advocating this type of work as a long-term career. It’s a good confidence booster or even just a way to put food on the table. However, after you feel that you can take on more difficult types of online writing, there are much more lucrative gigs out there to be had.

The bottom line is: there’s always a way to make it work as a freelance writer regardless of your English writing ability.

So what are you waiting for? If you are sitting on your butt because you don’t have enough clients to fill up your freelancing schedule, start hitting up SEO companies and pitch your services! And let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: Quinn deEskimo

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32 Responses to “How to Make $3,000 Per Month as a Mediocre Writer”

  1. Shaun
    December 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    An interesting article — and as Tom points out, you are a good writer.

    Over 300 articles in a month is a LOT of work though, even if you are outsourcing, having to manage that many projects sounds very stressful to me. I think it could only ever be a short term solution as burn out is inevitable, as you found. As a confidence booster, fair play to you for working hard and bringing in a good income, though.

    Did you get to put your own byline at the end of your articles? My only concern is that, if not, you’re essentially starting from scratch after all that hard work.

    Good luck finding the more lucrative gigs — question though: why no writer website?

    • Minh
      December 18, 2014 at 4:26 pm

      Hi Shaun,

      Thanks for the compliment! When writing for the web, not knowing how to style your content can have the same effect on your readers as not knowing proper English grammar.

      I didn’t get to put my byline at the end of the articles I wrote back then. Unfortunately, I did not know about the importance of bylines until much later. On the bright side, I wouldn’t want my name going on any of those articles anyway. I think it would actually hinder me from getting lucrative gigs!

      I’m in the process of launching my new blog, which will do double-duty as my writing website.

  2. Pankaj Mondal
    December 18, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Motivating article. Now is it mandatory to have a website of your own while contacting SEO companies. I’m asking this since I don’t have one.


    • Minh
      December 18, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Hi Pankaj,

      It isn’t necessary to have your own website, although it would help tremendously in your efforts to establish your credibility. There is a huge ocean of bad freelance writers out there, and most of them won’t make the effort to put up a decent website. Doing so will make you stand out from the crowd.

      One thing I didn’t mention in the article is that it might help to send out the initial e-mail pitch first, and then contact the SEO company via a phone call. That way, you won’t be calling them completely cold.

  3. Gina Horkey
    December 18, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Super interesting to read about the other side!

    • Minh
      December 18, 2014 at 6:06 pm

      Hi Gina,

      Of course! I feel very honored to have Tom feature my post on Leaving Work Behind.

      I’m also glad to read about your success with freelance blogging!

  4. John
    December 23, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Minh – Many thanks for writing this post.

    I really appreciate it and agree with other readers that you are actually a very good writer.

    The greatest lesson that I take away from your post is that nothing happens unless you actually take any action.

    Action creates rewards.

    Wishing you all the best for the future, John

  5. Nathan
    December 23, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Minh, were you doing some other job when you started? The idea of adding 4-5 hours on top of my current jobs seems overwhelming. Any advice?

    • Minh
      December 23, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      Hi Nathan,

      When I was getting started with this type of online writing, I was currently working freelance hours as a financial adviser.

      My advice is to start small to see if freelance writing is for you. Spend one or two hours per day working on it. Then, when you feel like online writing is for you, hire a VA (virtual assistant) to help you with the administrative work. A VA can also help with finding writers for your team, keeping them accountable, keeping your books straight, and more.

      Getting a VA on my team is something I would have considered doing if I wanted to keep going with this type of business.

      • Heather Gomez
        January 2, 2015 at 5:44 pm

        I notice your verbiage that states “would have considered if I wanted to keep going with this type of business” Have you decided to go another route? Are you solely focusing on being a financial advisor at this time?

        • Minh
          January 3, 2015 at 5:54 pm

          Hello Heather,

          I’ve been making the transition from the low end of online writing to the high end.

          I’ve just been spending the last few months since August taking a break from writing, learning about blog writing, and brainstorming ideas for my own blog.

  6. jonk
    December 24, 2014 at 6:30 am

    Hi there Minh.

    Very good article you have there. Your stated potential income there got me, instantly.

    But the thing is, I’m not a native in English. I think I’m not that bad in my English. But, my concern is whether it will work with the SEO companies? I’m pretty sure they would prefer native one.


    • Minh
      December 30, 2014 at 4:23 am

      Hi Jonk,

      It’s definitely going to be a little tougher for a non-native English speaker, but don’t let it deter you from going for it!

      You can pay someone $5 on Fiverr to have them proofread your work and edit grammar mistakes.

      You will also want to make sure that your e-mail correspondence with the SEO companies don’t have too many obvious grammar mistakes in them.

  7. Teri
    December 24, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    An excellent article thank you for sharing. Not only inspiring but informative. The links were very useful. Thanks again.

  8. thomas daniels
    December 25, 2014 at 4:48 am

    I have 3 site and I want to get more traffic to them, any tips, really don’t want to work as a free lancer, thanks.

    Great article too.

  9. Rose
    December 27, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Great article and thank you for being so candid. Do you have any tips for writing SEO articles or links for current SEO best practices?

    • Minh
      December 30, 2014 at 4:28 am

      Hi Rose,

      As far as writing SEO articles, I usually make a quick outline and then write them as fast as I can. You aren’t being compensated enough for you to write an amazing, authoritative post.

      I do not have any links off the top of my head for SEO best practices, but I’m sure a quick Google search will yield you with many trustworthy results.

  10. PCS
    December 28, 2014 at 12:24 am

    Do the SEO companies provide the keywords?

  11. Allison
    December 28, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Great post Minh!! This was really informative 🙂

  12. Rachel
    January 5, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Thanks for the article. As someone who is just dipping her toes into the freelance writing pool, I am extremely interested in any and all ways to generate income. I have a specific monthly amount I need to make consistently in order to go ahead with my dream of moving, and I think that the confidence boost you suggested that comes from writing SEO articles might be just what I need to launch my full time freelance writing career.

  13. Stacey
    January 13, 2015 at 3:15 am

    Thank you Minh!

    Although this is not the type or writing I would want to do, I can appreciate it was a good start for you and a good confidence booster. Thanks so much for sharing!

  14. Rhonda Chapman
    January 25, 2015 at 5:02 am

    Great article, thanks!

    Question: Is it tough to negotiate to get a byline when writing for a client who isn’t a “blogger” or news site etc.? Let’s say a business or an organisation.

    • Minh
      January 26, 2015 at 12:31 am

      Hi Rhonda,

      I don’t much experience when it comes to negotiating bylines, but based on what I’ve seen when reading other blog posts, I would say that it depends on each individual situation. Some prefer to find bloggers who are fine with ghostwriting, some are open to letting you have your byline.

  15. Yan Supormoro
    February 2, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    Minh, your table on income is for May. You say you got burned out with that model, so I imagine it is not a sustainable model for most.

    However, you also said you were transitioning to high-end writing, which I think means you would be reducing SEO, rewriting and cookie cutter blog posts, correct?

    Have you been able to sustain the $3000 per month income stream?

    • Minh
      February 3, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      I actually took a break from writing for a few months and only got back into it around December. I’m not back at the $3,000 just yet, but I should hit that mark soon; it’s not hard to find good-paying jobs on Tom’s blog jobs service. Perhaps I’ll do a guest post here about it!

  16. Kingsley Raphael
    February 3, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Wow! Fantastic post. I really didn’t know someone could make that much writing for SEO based firms. I never thought they coud pay anything tangible – in short, I normally ignore them when I’m pitching for clients online.

    BUT. . .
    I sincerely think it is time to do a rethink and restrategize on how I’ll utilise this strategy.

    I will try it out and see how it goes. Will keep you guys updated.

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